If he hasn’t already, JD McCrary is about to roar into your heart.
If you think the name is familiar, you’re not buggin’; the pre-teen superstar has been seen and heard many times in recent years. He was a cast member on Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne, and recently, he had a big role in the film Little as the stuttering, yet vocally-adept schoolfriend of Marsai Martin/Regina Hall’s character. You may have also Googled his name after he hit some extraordinary vocal runs alongside Childish Gambino at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Now, he’s lending his mighty voice to the role of Young Simba in the CGI-remake of the beloved Disney film, The Lion King. The film releases nationwide on July 19.
Starring opposite huge names like Beyoncé (Adult Nala), James Earle Jones (Mufasa), and his Awaken, My Love! collaborator Donald Glover (Adult Simba), McCrary edged thousands of other boys equally billed as triple-threats (acting, singing, dancing) to nab the role, in what he says was quite the unorthodox audition.
“Usually, you go [to auditions] physically, but I did self-taped because I was in Atlanta, and the auditions were in L.A.” he explains to VIBE. “So, I did three self-tapes, I got the callback, I booked it, and then I was able to go back to L.A. [to film].”
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McCrary calls being able to be in a film of this magnitude “top-tier,” and is excited to lend his voice and his solid vocals to the role of the spunky lion cub. The Lion King’s soundtrack is expected to drop on digital platforms July 11 and physically on the film’s release date. It features production by Pharrell Williams, and also comes with a new track by Beyoncé. The original film’s key songwriters Elton John and Tim Rice wrote a new song for the remake, and the new version reportedly maintains much of the original film’s score.
McCrary can be heard on the forthcoming soundtrack crooning on “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Hakuna Matata” alongside his castmates, but you can hear his impressive vocals on his latest solo project as well.
“It feels good to release my own material because it’s releasing my own art, something that really came from my heart—ooh! That rhymed!” he laughs as he details his EP, Shine. The four-song project was released in February, and while it may be only 10 minutes long, McCrary’s undeniable gifts will keep you yearning for more. He reinvents a gospel classic on “Shine,” and he spells out his feelings for a special lil’ lady on his personal favorite track, “L.O.V.E U.”
“I was just ‘on’ that day, I flipped the switch, I was feeling good,” he smiles as he explains the recording process for the aforementioned track. “But also, [that song is] my favorite because of the beat. Originally, the song had a beat that was more mid-tempo, but it has a different beat now. One day, we went to a meeting, and they were like ‘let’s play ‘L.O.V.E U’ and I was like ‘okay, that’s fine.’ They played it, and it had a different beat. It was awesome, and it was my favorite beat from then on.”
What’s next for the young superstar? Well, a birthday, for one––he turns 12 years old the day before the Jon Favreau-remake drops. He’s excited for everything surrounding the film, detailing that he hopes there are some major awards in his future as a result of his participation. It’s without a doubt his time to shine, and JD McCrary just can’t wait to see what he can accomplish as he grows as an entertainer.
“I’d like to go on tour, I’m trying to set something up so I can perform around the world,” he says of his future plans. “Also, I’m gonna drop a new EP after The Lion King‘s release, and it’s gonna be a pretty good EP. I’m working on it now, and I’ve got some other projects going on. It’s gonna be a good month after the movie comes out, and that week is gonna be a good week.”